In the past I have taken middle school students on short little tours of the Neosho IOOF Cemetery.

In the past I have taken middle school students on short little tours of the Neosho IOOF Cemetery.
Basically I just told stories about a few of the people buried there, at their gravesites. I wonder when I'm gone if anyone will tell stories about me at my headstone? I hope not. I also talked briefly about how to quickly identify certain gravestones by symbols and even shape.
When you think about it, the cemetery – any cemetery – is full of stories. Everyone buried there had a story they lived. Some had more lively stories than others – or perhaps they simply did something that we still see in front of us today, such as erect a building or found an organization. Those are the stories we know and focus on. But I think there is probably something interesting to tell about each and every person buried in any given cemetery, if only the dear departed could somehow share their experiences with us now, or if the facts were otherwise known. But beyond facts we would also want to know about feelings, wouldn't we? Facts mean more when they are tied to emotion. For instance, probably every person buried in a cemetery has probably known love of some kind, whether or not they died as an infant or if they lived to be 100. A mother's love, brotherly love, romantic love, one or all, is felt by most people at some point in their lives, no matter how long or short that life is. And if they died young, they would have a story of how they died, right? If they lived to a ripe old age they have a LOT of stories, don't they? Those buried below the ground who have known romantic love probably have the best stories to tell – no matter how those stories might end, good or bad. Most of us have some of both.
That's what I tried to stress to these students. I could have spent hours, days, weeks, telling stories, if known, about the more than 8,000 people who are buried in that cemetery. Everyone has a story. That's what history is – stories about people. Just because I picked a few certain people to talk about doesn't mean their stories are more important than others. I just talked about a few I knew about and thought I could make interesting to pre-teens.
Let me add that it was such a pleasure talking to people, young people especially, who seemed genuinely interested in hearing these stories. These kids knew their stuff too. I know adults who couldn't even tell you what century World War I was fought in, and these kids had it down to specific dates. But then, they were also history club students, too. No wonder I liked them so much.
What's your story? Allow me to urge you to write it down for future generations. You don't even have show it to anyone right now. Just put it away for someone to find later on. Or give it to someone you think will appreciate it. I wish my grandparents had done that. I wish I would have asked them to. Do it now. Don't let your great-great-grandchildren walk by your headstone one day and wonder who you were.




Wes Franklin writes a column for the Neosho Daily News.